The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 16, 2014

So-so interest by bar owners, could trim impact of new law


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- — MAYBE THE recent news that a Pennsylvania law allowing legalized gambling in bars won’t affect private clubs and charities as much as first imagined.

And that’s a great thing.

We say that after Herald reporter Joe Wiercinski interviewed some local tavern owners for a story on the front page of Wednesday’s edition.

Clubs like the American Legion, VFW, Elks, Eagles and many more expressed concern when the state passed legislation permitting bars to hold small games of chance similar to those permitted at private clubs. The real problem was the loss of funding that goes to charities because private clubs must distribute 70 percent of their profits to non-profit organizations. For example, a recent Scrapbook Photo in The Herald reported that the Farrell VFW distributed more than $20,000 to various local charities and groups – including fire departments and police – in the last two months of 2013.

If bars pay for the gambling licenses, then 60 percent of what they earn from the gambling would go to the state, while the bar owner would keep 40 percent. While some owners might distribute some of the profits to charities, many would not. However, the worries may not be realistic. Some bar owners interviewed by The Herald said they would not apply for the licenses.

And there were various reasons.

One tavern owner said: “We thought about it, but our people work hard and a lot of their income is in tips. We’re afraid that (gambling) would take away from their earnings. People only have so much money to spend when they go out.”

Another restaurant/bar owner commented that his establishment wouldn’t go for a license because, “We do a good business with food. It’s been good for the clubs and it might help some smaller bars who could use a way to attract some new customers.”

Good points. However for smaller bars the cost is probably prohibitive. After all, it costs $2,000 for a non-refundable application fee, then another $2,000 for the license. Then each year there is an annual renewable fee of $1,000. That is a pretty sizable outlay for a small business.

While the number of taverns in the Mercer County area that will apply for gambling applications isn’t known as of yet, it appears that the problem of private clubs and charities losing funding might not be as bad as first thought.